It lacks the needed capitalist underpinning, to say the least.
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One of the three — 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan — is a college graduate with a degree is in telecommunications. He seems to have little or nothing in the way of useful knowledge or marketable skills. Taking him at his word, the film-makers introduce this slow-witted youth as someone who is “angry after many years of suffering everyday humiliations at the hands of the state.” On Feb. 12 — the day after Mubarak stepped down — Ahmed enjoys a brief moment of fame at his local barber shop, lauded by friends as one of the heroes of Tahrir Square. He tells them: “Now, when an employer finds out that I was part of the revolution he will never treat me badly like before. Impossible!” Bitter and still unemployed several months later, he comes to the opposite conclusion — “Everyone is scared of (hiring) me because I was part of the revolution that toppled Mubarak.”
Then there is Gigi Ibrahim, also 24, dark-haired and strikingly pretty, the prototypical student activist and an avowed socialist. Gigi becomes a media star — one of the faces seen on the cover of Time and a spokesperson for the revolution that television stations in Cairo, London, and New York call upon for comment. But she, too, becomes disillusioned as the year wears on and women are no longer welcome on the square. Like Ahmed, she does not even bother to vote in the parliamentary elections that are held in November of 2011.
Gigi, the daughter of a rich industrialist, continues to think of herself as a revolutionary. In the words of the film, “Gigi wants to destroy the old system that made her father.” In the aftermath of the revolution, she goes into her father’s clothing factory to urge workers to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The long-suffering father tells the filmmakers: “Anyone who makes 1,000 now wants 5,000. It’s a disaster. She has turned my people against me. I think she’s a communist.”
Then she trains her sights on other employers. “Gigi and her comrades” — in the words of film — “turn their social networking skills” to the larger task of trying to incite workers across country to strike for higher wages and better benefits.
Having followed Ahmed and Gigi from the beginning of the revolution, the film-makers made the wise choice of including at one of the Islamists who were latecomers to Tahrir Square. So they added Tahir, 26, a Quran teacher and Salafist who had been imprisoned multiple times over the previous decade for religious activism.
Tahir made me think of what Mitt Romney must have looked like in his young missionary phase — ramrod straight, coat-and-tied, serious both about the message to be preached and getting ahead in his own life. That is not to suggest any connection between the two men apart from their physical appearance and bearing. Tahir, who lives in a five-story building filled with other member of his extended family, tools around Cairo on a Vespa.
Of the three revolutionaries, Tahir is the only one who thrives over the course of the next 12 months. He has a double celebration in November: Getting married on the same day that the Salafists emerge as big winners in the parliamentary election, coming in second behind the Brotherhood. Despite his own experience as a prison inmate, Tahir fully supports the Army in using tanks and armored vehicles to run over protesters in the run-up to that election. “I don’t agree with the protesters,” he says. He calls the riots “a conspiracy to subvert the election.” Chillingly, he also looks pleased in a Quran class when students aged 5 or 6 call for the killing of Coptic Christians.
In the midst of all this tumult, Egypt’s economy, unsurprisingly, has gone from bad (the condition for many years) to a whole lot worse. Tourism has collapsed. Unemployment has soared. Euphoria over the revolution has been replaced by worries over the lack of jobs and concern that the country may be unable to pull itself out of a deepening hole — regardless of all the social networking and texting over mobile phones that captured the attention of many reporters during the 18-day long revolution.
My wife and I returned in early February from a week-long trip in Upper Egypt — making a small contribution to the country’s depleted tourism industry. Though we were cocooned in the luxury of a guided tour, we still saw plenty of evidence of Egypt’s descent into economic and social chaos.
In striking against their nearly bankrupt government for more pay, lock workers at Esna succeeded in stopping most of tour boats that go back and forth between Luxor and the Aswan Dam. At the same time, we saw lighted and speeding trains that were empty of any passengers because the railroad workers had gone out on strike as well — leaving displaced passengers to queue on the road for buses to continue their journeys.
One of the biggest factors accounting for the lack of growth and jobs in Egypt is its bloated and fractious public sector. The government accounts for 35% of total employment in Egypt. In Turkey, it is 13% and in India, it is just 4%.
Too bad, then, none of the leading contenders for power in Egypt — whether in the Brotherhood, the military, or even in what remains of the student activists — seems to have any sense of the truth contained in F. A. Hayek’s dictum: “Only capitalism makes democracy possible.”
Egypt will never have a flourishing democracy without a more enterprising and productive economy.
It’s too bad that nobody seems be championing the cause of free enterprise and genuine capitalism (as opposed to the crony capitalism that flourished under Mubarak and previous governments). Nothing would be more effective in stimulating the growth that is so desperately needed — while finally allowing democracy to replace authoritarian rule.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?